Qualities of an Effective Teacher

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Whether we're teaching scuba diving or God's way of life, these attitudes can help make us easier to learn from.

The Bible tells us that we must be teachers of our children and grandchildren and be preparing for our job of teaching others now and in the future (Deuteronomy:4:9-10; Matthew:28:20; Revelation:5:10; Malachi:2:7).

As a scuba instructor since 1987, and a teacher of diving instructors since 1990, I've found the methods, techniques and attitudes we use can also be used whatever the subject matter. Naturally, to be a teacher of anything, it is imperative to have a complete knowledge of the subject or skill that must be taught.

Easy to Learn From

During our course for training scuba divers to become instructors, we conduct a workshop to explore the attributes of a good teacher or educator. The candidates, as we call the students, think of qualities that made someone's teaching easy to learn from.

Once we have our list, we categorize it into knowledge, skill or attitude. The attitude category always wins, hands down!

I would like to explore three of the top attributes of attitude, which are patience, enthusiasm and encouragement.


Patience is something we all need. The Bible sometimes calls patience long-suffering. We can surely feel as though we are suffering long when we exercise patience.

In Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word patient is defined as "bearing pains or trials calmly without complaint; manifesting forbearance under provocation or strain; not hasty or impetuous; steadfast despite opposition, difficulty or adversity."

To that, I say—wow! No wonder we take our whole lifetime developing this particular attribute.

In Romans:15:4-5 we read, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." Also see Luke:8:15, Romans:5:3 and Hebrews:6:12. Since God has infinite patience with us, we can be sure He expects us to be the same with one another, especially when we serve as teachers!

In learning scuba diving, many people have difficulty with clearing their mask of water while under water. It is really quite easy, but it arouses irrational fear. Simply reminding people that they already know how to blow their nose, and that they can also hold their breath for a few seconds helps them in this exercise.

We can apply these same principles to learning about the Bible. Jesus used many life experiences and well-known examples to illustrate the things God wants us to know and do.

In Mark:4:30 we read, "Then He said, 'To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade.'"

Patience requires us as teachers to acknowledge the smallest of accomplishments. People learn so much more with positive remarks. Who wants to be told the one thing he did wrong? True compliments on performance open up the mind to receive criticism to improve. In diving instruction, we have a formula for critiques. One thing we do is point out exactly what was done correctly.


Enthusiasm, the next attribute on our list, is one that everyone benefits from. When a person speaks with enthusiasm, his voice shows it. An excited person doesn't speak in a boring and monotone voice. Enthusiasm inspires the learner to pay attention. We want to know what it is that makes the teacher so excited!

When we apply this same enthusiasm to teaching God's Word, people will want to know what gives us that zeal, and they will want to have it too. Remember your excitement when the Bible and God's plan began to make sense for you? Then your enthusiasm, your zeal, your excitement flowed out and affected everyone who listened to you! (Consider Apollos' example in Acts:18:24-25.)


Encouragement is the last attribute to bring to your mind today. It means giving hope or promise, to be inspiring. With the patience of helping people to learn at their own pace, in their own way, and teaching with enthusiasm, you almost automatically become an encourager.

In teaching scuba diving, we remind the students of what they have learned so far. This encourages them in their efforts to learn more.

Paul's letters often begin with his saying that he thanks God for the people he is writing to. Then he reminds them of what they are doing right, and how they can build on it.

In teaching any subject, being patient by putting yourself in the students' shoes, showing enthusiasm and giving encouragement by telling them that you are proud of what they have learned so far, will do much to make you more effective as a teacher now and in the world to come.

Our scuba instructor training manual states the following in its conclusion: "Your attitude is the most important professional attribute. The instructor development process can enhance your skills and knowledge, but only you can develop the proper attitude necessary to succeed as an instructor."

May God help us all to develop these wonderful attributes that will enable us to be more effective teachers. UN

Dianne Carter attends the West Palm Beach, Florida, congregation.

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